Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Capitalist Education, or It's June and I'm Still in School

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD, likes to think of himself as "an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity, and innovation." Like others who fancy themselves thought leaders on the issue of education, Robinson argues that the way education systems in post-industrial countries extract information from students is flawed. "Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip mine the earth: for a particular commodity," he said in a recent TED Talk. For Robinson, the method is the problem: tinker with the "extraction" process to accomodate different people with different kinds of skills - like the student he mentions in his talk, who can't sit still in class but turns out to be a world class dancer - and the education system will be better. To much applause Robinson declares, "creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status." And yet, while Robinson calls for a radical re-imagining of the education model, his analogy - of the mind as a mine - preserves essential function of education in a capitalist economy: commoditization.

Students are not laborers. Nothing is produced at school; if anything, students are consumers. However, public education is responsible for transforming students into laborers. The commoditizing function of public education turns students into vessels of labor-power. This necessitates the authoritarian nature of the education system. If the process of commoditization is stopped, then the gears of capitalism grind to a halt. Disobedience, non-conformity, and disruptive behavior, therefore, all threaten the successful functioning of productive processes.

The problem with the education system is not the specificity of the "mining" process.  Anyone who has been in a school recently knows that the problem with the education system is not the specificity of the "extraction" process. The problem is the notion of "extraction" itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment